MONTREAL - In the last year Canada has seen mayors slapped with corruption accusations and gangsterism charges. One was linked to a crack-smoking video. Another quit in a sex scandal.
Now one says he kills kittens.
The mayor of Huntingdon, Que., Stephane Gendron, has been forced to apologize for joking about how he enthusiastically kills cats with his car — even newborns.
The small-town mayor, whose other career is radio shock-jock, has posted a letter on the website of his show explaining that his "dark humour" had done nothing to raise the level of debate over animal control.
"When I see a cat in the street, I accelerate," Gendron had said, days earlier, on his radio show.
"Stray cats have no business on the street," he said, raising his voice to a shout for dramatic emphasis: "So bang! I accelerate."
He didn't stop there.
"The other day I backed up over a newborn and I'm sure it didn't feel a thing," Gendron said.
"The pickup passed over him like it was nothing."
One of his fellow hosts called his comments, "Sick," while another compared such actions to the alleged behaviour of Luka Rocco Magnotta.
Gendron's statement of apology came after the SPCA said it had opened an investigation into the mayor, whose town of 2,450 is between Montreal and the New York State border.
Gendron has spoken before about the problem of stray animals. His town council recently adoped a bylaw requiring sterilization of all cats.
In his statement, Gendron said smaller communities don't have animal shelters and euthanizing every stray at the vet is unaffordable. He said the proliferation of cats on his own property has become a big problem.
While the statement does offer an apology, and it refers to dark humour, it never actually states categorically whether he was telling the truth on the air.
"On July 9, 2013, I made largely exaggerated comments on the overpopulation of cats that constitutes a nuisance in our urban and rural areas," Gendron's statement said.
"I myself have to deal with this problem on my property, with many dozens of stray cats that come and cause problems.
"I admit that the imagery used served no purpose in advancing the debate on this issue... For all these reasons, I apologize. The use of dark humour was inappropriate in dealing with such a subject."
The SPCA says that in its investigation it's now looking for people who might have evidence to support the claims the mayor initially made on the air.
"(We're) obviously shocked and horrified to hear something like that - coming from anybody, but particularly from someone like that who has a platform," said SPCA Montreal spokeswoman Alanna Devine.
"Someone who has a radio show and who is an elected public official — (we're) absolutely horrified."
She called the case a "priority."
Devine said police have not been contacted yet as the SPCA has special constables with law-enforcement power who can open the investigation.
She said that, even if it turns out Gendron was making up the story as a joke, it's still "unacceptable and totally horrendous nonetheless."
Gendron has frequently stirred controversy with comments on a variety of topics in the past, aired on different media platforms over the years.
Last year, he apologized for calling Israel an apartheid state that doesn't deserve to exist.
He was once removed from television by a now-defunct network for making controversial comments that resulted in numerous complaints.
A call to Gendron was not immediately returned Sunday.
Quebec, in particular, has had numerous mayoral scandals this year — which have led to four resignations in Montreal and next-door Laval.
Most recently, the interim mayor of Laval announced he was stepping down — just six hours after he publicly declared he would stay on despite a controversy allegedly involving extortion and a prostitute.
That interim mayor had replaced the long-ruling Gilles Vaillancourt, who was slapped with a number of criminal charges including two counts of gangsterism. Police allege Vaillancourt ran city hall as a money-scheming criminal organization.
Vaillancourt has vowed to fight the charges.
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